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Saturday, April 28, 2007

An experiment in hiking ハイキングの試み

I'm working on Saturdays now. It's just one class, 90 minutes in the afternoon while Amber is taking her nap, but I still wish I didn't have to do it. One of the things I used to do on my free Saturdays was to go for hikes in Tak'eng (Dakeng) 大坑, so today I decided to find out if it was still possible to do so. The good news is it is! By waking up at 7, leaving home before 7:30 and having a quick breakfast at McDonald's, I was able to reach Takeng and begin a hike by 8:30. The bad news is there are a lot more people on the trails at that time compared to the late morning/early afternoon walks I used to do. You can't have everything, I suppose.

This morning I chose to go up the No. 2 Trail, which I did, reaching the top in about 35 minutes. I didn't take any pictures of the scenery on the way up, as I've done so many times in the past. But there were some insects out and about, such as this caterpillar 毛虫 and these ants アリ:


The top of the No. 2 Trail was predictably crowded with hikers taking a break or having breakfast. A quick ten-minute walk up some steep staircases brought me to the beginning of the No. 5 Trail.


The No. 5 is a ridgetop trail, and is a fairly level walk for the most part. It's also the least busy of the five trails in the area, so I was able to find some occasional peace and quiet this morning.


The most enjoyable thing about walking the No. 5 Trail this morning was seeing the Tung trees in full bloom. Blossoms could be seen everywhere along the trail, and the ground was carpeted with them in some places.
あちらこちらアブラギリの花が見られた。


At what I assume is the highest point on the No. 5 is an obelisk オベリスク, erected in 1979, commemorating the 90th anniversary of the establishment of T'aichung (Taijhong) 台中(たいちゅう)as a city. The monument also informs us that the name of the mountain upon which it stands is Erhk'eshan (Erkeshan) 貳科山 ("Two Branches Mountain"), and that it stands 775 meters (2543 feet) in elevation. There is also an inscription on one side that reads "Jen che yao shan (Ren jhe yao shan)" 仁者樂山, part of a Confucian saying that people of high moral character love mountains. That's me folks!


The No. 5 Trail comes to an end at a small agricultural road. A short walk past some orchards leads to a section of trail that joins up with the main hiking routes in Takeng. It was there that I took this picture of a Tung tree in all its glory.


More views of blooming Tung trees and distant settlements could be had on the way back to the No. 2 Trail. In all, it took me 90 minutes to make the loop, including the time spent stopping to take pictures.


On the way back down the No. 2 to the parking lot, I was lucky to get a glimpse of some monkeys 猿, a rare sight in the mountains of Takeng (though actually the third time I've seen some there). One, in fact, crossed the trail in front of me. I stood for a long time listening to their sounds and movements in the brush nearby, and was able to get a photo of one hiding in the foliage (even if the picture does look like a shot of the hidden gunman in the grassy knoll at Dealey Plaza!).

Alas, my fellow hikers didn't share the same reverence for the monkeys as me. Especially grating were the kids screaming "Monkey! Monkey! Monkey!" (in English!), egged on by their even more obnoxious mother. One man stopped to have a look, but neglected to turn off his blaring radio before doing so. And then there were the three OL-types who stopped to take a break next to where I was standing, blathering away on topics of interest to young working women, and completely oblivious to the grunts and clicking sounds of the monkeys in the trees just a few meters away from them. Yet another example of how I am disconnected from the ways of Taiwan and its natives?

I was back at my scooter before 11:30, 3 hours and 9000 paces later, and back home for lunch by 12:15. Conclusion: if I can drag myself out of bed early enough, I can still enjoy the great outdoors before going to work. Now if I can just find a place where I can be alone...

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